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A white brochure with red and black text reading ‘Aberdare Urban District Handbook and Directory.’ The bottom left corner shows the Aberdare Council crest, reading ‘The Urban District Council of Aberdare 1894’. Inside, on page 31, the brochure features information about The Michael Sobell Sports Centre detailing how it came to be funded and its final composition and use. For example, it seems that Mr Sobell already had some business in the area, as ‘In 1945, Michael Sobell established the radio and television factory on the Hirwaun Industrial Estate. He became aware of intentions to build a sports centre in Aberdare.’ The details of the centre itself include ‘the main Sports Hall measures 120ft. x 105ft. x 30ft. in height, and it is divisible as required, by a screen and nets, to allow of various sports taking place at the same time.’ On page 32, there is a black and white image of the Main Hall. It shows a group playing football on one side of the hall and another group playing boules on the other side of the hall.

Michael Sobell was a British businessman and philanthropist. He was born in Galicia into a Jewish family. His family owned factories in the Austro-Hungarian empire. The family moved to England in 1903 in order to escape antisemitism. Sobell made a career as a pioneer in electronics through his Radio and Allied Industries Ltd. In 1961, his company merged with The General Electric Company (GEC), making the family GEC’s largest shareholders.

As Michael Sobell’s business flourished, he became involved in educational and other institutions that advanced science. He also set up the Anne and Michael Sobell Trust, which provided financial support to a variety of benevolent causes including medical, educational and fitness endeavours. As a result of this the Michael Sobell Sports centre in Aberdare was built. Michael Sobell gave a donation of £366,000 to Aberdare Urban District Council. The Sports Centre was opened in 1970 by HRH the Prince of Wales and Michael Sobell.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Cynon Valley had a small Jewish community, consisting of some fifty families throughout the towns of Abercynon, Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash, Aberaman and Aberdare. Most of Jewish families came to Aberdare from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia. The earliest record of Jewish presence and activity in the Cynon Valley dates to 1858-9. The name of Harris Freedman and the partnership of Lyons and Hyman are listed as trading as pawnbrokers and general dealers in Aberdare.

Initially the Jewish community worshipped in individuals' homes or business premises but in 1887 David Hart allowed the use of his premises at 19a Seymour Street, Aberdare, as a permanent Synagogue. The Aberdare Hebrew congregation was at its largest, with around 90 members, from the 1910s to the 1930s. However, the community declined and services had virtually ceased by 1957, when the congregation was down to 35. In 1966 it was reported that services were no longer held there. The building, now a private residence again, received a blue commemorative plaque in 2015.

Depository: Cynon Valley Museum: ACVMS 2001 833

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